The deep, extensive forests of the Olympic Peninsula hide secrets. As the ancient coelacanth, a fish found in fisherman’s nets off of the coast of South Africa in 1938, or the chance discovery of the brilliantly bioluminescent megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) hooked upon a US Navy’s ships anchor in 1976, document --- the natural world still holds mysteries.
Before actual specimens of these species were found stories abounded about their existence, but proof was necessary to take these animals from the realm of cryptid to the empirical world. Cryptozoology is a term coined in the 1950s by Bernard Heuvelman, a French-Belgian biologist, used to describe the discipline responsible for documenting cryptids or “animals of unexplained form or size, or unexpected occurrence in time or space.”
The search for these cryptids or “hidden animals” has included research in to the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) of Scotland, the Abominable Snowman or Yeti of the Himalayas, and the Lake Champlain monster (or Champ). More locally there are reports of sea serpents (often known as the Cadborosaurus) in the waters of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound and the Ogopogo lake monster of British Columbia’s Lake Okanagan. Another famous cryptid found across North America is the Bigfoot, or more locally, the Sasquatch.
"About one-third of all claims of Bigfoot sightings are located in the Pacific Northwest."
Washington State has the highest instance of direct sightings in the United States of creatures meeting the description of Sasquatch or "Bigfoot." Recorded by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), Pierce County takes the lead with total number of listings, with Snohomish and Skamania following close behind. After a series of sightings and findings of foot prints and other evidence, Skamania famously passed a law in 1969 that forbade the “willfull and wanton slaying” of a Sasquatch. Such action would be considered a felony and punishable by a hefty fine of $10,000 and jail time. This punishment has since been reduced to $500 and only six months in jail, but the endurance of this legislation demonstrates that the Sasquatch is still considered real enough to protect.
"The endurance of this legislation demonstrates that the Sasquatch is still considered real enough to protect."
Sasquatch has been described as a large, hairy, up-right walking, hominid-like creature, often accompanied by a strong stench. The Sasquatch is often identified by strange “eerie” calls such as whoops and screams. Additionally, it is famous for its large footprints. Usually, these encounters are reported as non-aggressive but they often induce incredible fear and a feeling of unease in the witness and there are reports of Sasquatches breaking large branches and throwing rocks.
Indigenous people throughout the Pacific Northwest describe in their oral history and legends various versions of a Sasquatch-like-creature that is often characterized as a malevolent trickster responsible for stealing children and women.
The Kwakwaakaa’wakw of Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, tell stories of Dsonoqua—or the Wild Woman of the Woods—who makes the noise of the wind “ooh-ing” through the trees and lures away children. These stories may or may not be cultural traditions documenting the Sasquatch.
Many a campfire is made spookier by tales of the supernatural Sasquatch. Stemming from this, there is a new kind of tourism on the rise—cryptotourism. Professionally led expeditions are orchestrated by organizations such as the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) and the Olympic Project to systematically search for evidence of the Sasquatch in areas of high reports. Usually, participants on these expeditions are taught in the field how to take accurate casts of footprints, make sound recordings, conduct surveys, as well as how to collect uncontaminated samples of hair and feces.
On the Lookout for Sasquatch
According to David George Gordon, author of The Sasquatch Seeker’s Field Manual (2015), mainstream researchers do not have access to the grants or time needed to properly assess the Sasquatch question, so like the Christmas Bird Count miraculously organized by Cornell every winter, volunteer, amateur scientists, or ‘citizen scientists,’ are the only hope to document evidence of the Sasquatch.
Training citizen scientists through organized expeditions is one way to further research and cover more ground. Additionally, these organizations file reports of Sasquatch sightings, lending us a powerful tool to create your own self-guided, cryptotour of the Olympic Peninsula.
Make sure you pack a good camera in the hopes you spot some unusual wildlife. As well, bring a friend or two as the more witnesses the more credible your evidence will be. Below are two top areas to look for Sasquatch activity in around Hood Canal from the BFRO’s list of Bigfoot reports.
Local Sightings & Reports
Jarell Cove State Park and Harstine Island area
• Report of an actual sighting in 2005
• Recent increase reports of hearing the calls of Sasquatches
Big Creek Campground & Lake Cushman area
• Report from hikers on Big Creek Trail of hearing the calls, smelling the stench and seeing oddly broken branches in 2010
• Multiple reports of hearing calls of Sasquatches in the Lake Cushman area
• Two reports of actual sightings in the Lake Cushman area from 2006.